Quarterly Review: Arð, Seremonia, The Quill, Dark Worship, More Experience, Jawless, The Heavy Co., Sound of Smoke, Red Mesa, Margarita Witch Cult


Well then, here we are. Day two of the Spring 2022 Quarterly Review brings a few records that I really, really like, personally, and I hope that you listen and feel similar. What you’ll find throughout is a pretty wide swath of styles, but these are the days of expanded-definition heavy, so let’s not squabble about this or that. Still a lot of week to go, folks. Gotta keep it friendly.

Deep breath in, and…

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Arð, Take Up My Bones

ard take up my bones

Hard to know at what point Winterfylleth‘s Mark Deeks decided to send his historically-minded solo-project Arð to Prophecy Productions for release consideration, but damned if the six-song Take Up My Bones doesn’t feel quintessential. Graceful lines of piano and strings give way to massively-constructed lumbering funeralia, vocals adding to the atmosphere overall as the story of St. Cuthbert’s bones is recounted through song, in mood perhaps more than folk balladeering. Whatever your familiarity with that narrative or willingness to engage it, Deeks‘ arrangements are lush and wondrously patient, the sound of “Boughs of Trees” at the outset of side B building smoothly toward its deathly sprawl but unrelentingly melodic. The longer “Raise Then the Incorrupt Body” and “Only Three Shall Know” come across as more directly dramatic with their chants and so on, but Arð‘s beauty-through-darkness melancholy is the center around which the album is built and the end result is suitably consuming. While not incomplete by any means, I find myself wondering when it’s over what other stories Deeks may have to tell.

Arð on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website


Seremonia, Neonlusifer

seremonia neonlusifer

Oh, Seremonia. How I missed you. These long six years after Pahuuden Äänet (review here), the Finnish troupe return to rescue their cult listenership from any and all mundane realities, psych and garage-fuzz potent enough to come with a warning label (which so far as I know it doesn’t) on “Neonlusifer” and the prior opener “Väärä valinta” with the all-the-way-out flute-laced swirl of “Raskatta vettä,” and if you don’t know what to make of all those vowel sounds, good luck with the cosmic rock of “Kaivon pohjalla” and “Unohduksen kidassa,” on which vocalist Noora Federley relinquishes the lead spot to new recruit Teemu Markkula (also Death Hawks), who also adds guitar, synth, organ and flute alongside the guitar/synth/vocals of Ville Pirinen, the drums/guitar/flute/vocals of Erno Taipale and bass/synth/vocals of Ilkka Vekka. This is a band who reside — permanently, it seems — on a wavelength of their own, and Neonlusifer is more than welcome after their time out of time. May it herald more glorious oddness to come from the noisy mist that ends “Maailmanlopun aamuna” and the album as a whole.

Seremonia on Facebook

Svart Records website


The Quill, Live, New, Borrowed, Blue

The Quill Live New Borrowed and Blue

Swedish heavy rockers The Quill mark 30 years of existence in 2022 (actually they go back further), and while Live, New, Borrowed, Blue isn’t quite an anniversary release, it does collect material from a pretty broad span of years. Live? “Keep it Together” and an especially engaging take on “Hole in My Head” that closes. New? The extended version of “Keep on Moving” from 2021’s Earthrise (review here), “Burning Tree” and “Children of the Sun.” Borrowed? Iron Maiden‘s “Where Eagles Dare,” November‘s “Mount Everest,” Aerosmith‘s “S.O.S.” and Captain Beyond‘s “Frozen Over.” Blue? Certainly “Burning Tree,” and all of it, if you’re talking about bluesy riffs, which, if you’re talking about The Quill, you are. In the narrative of Sverige heavy rock, they remain undersung, and this compilation, in addition to being a handy-dandy fan-piece coming off their last record en route to the inevitable next one, is further evidence to support that claim. Either you know or you don’t. Three decades on, The Quill are gonna be The Quill either way.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website


Dark Worship, Flesh of a Saint

Dark Worship Flesh of a Saint

Though it’s just 20 minutes long, the six-song debut from Ohio’s Dark Worship offers dark industrial heft and a grim psychedelic otherworldliness in more than enough measure to constitute a full-length. At the center of the storm — though not the eye of it, because it’s quiet there — is J. Meyers, also of Axioma, who conjures the spaces of “Culling Song” and “We’ve Always Been Here” as a bed for a selection of guest vocalists, including Nathan Opposition of Ancient VVisdom/Vessel of Light, Axioma‘s Aaron Dallison, and Joe Reed (To Dust, Exorcisme). No matter who’s fronting a given track — Reed gets the lion’s share, Dallison the title-track and Opposition the penultimate “Destroy Forever (Death of Ra)” — the vibe is biting and dark in kind, with Meyers providing backing vocals, guitar, and of course the software-born electronic beats and melodies that are the core of the project. Maybe hindsight will make this nascent-feeling, but in terms of world construction, Flesh of a Saint is punishing in its immersion, right up to the howling feedback and ambience of “Well of Light” at the finish. Conceptually destructive.

Dark Worship on Facebook

Tartarus Records store


More Experience, Electric Laboratory of High Space Experience

More Experience Electric Laboratory of High Space Experience

Nature sounds feature throughout More Experience‘s 2021 third album, Electric Laboratory of High Space Experience, with birdsong and other naturalist atmospheres in opener “The Twilight,” “Beezlebufo,” closer “At the Gates of Dawn,” and so on. Interspersed between them is the Polish troupe’s ’60s-worship psych. Drawing on sonic references from the earliest space rock and post-garage psychedelics — think Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson’s “Epitaph” is almost remade here as the penultimate title-track — band founder Piotr Dudzikowski (credited with guitars, organs, synthesizers, backing vocals, harmonium, tambura, and cobuz) gets by with a little help from his friends, which means in part that the vocals of extended early highlight “The Dream” are pulled back for a grain-of-salt spoken word on “The Trip” and the later “Fairy Tale.” The synthy “The Mind” runs over nine minutes and between that, “The Dream” and the title-track (9:56), I feel like I’m digging the longer-form, more dug-in songs, but I’m not going to take away from the ambient and more experimental stuff either, since that’s how this music was invented in the first place.

More Experience on Facebook

More Experience on Bandcamp


Jawless, Warrizer

Jawless Warrizer

Young Indonesian riffers Jawless get right to the heart of heavy on their debut album, Warrizer, with a raw take on doom rock that’s dead-on heavy and classic in its mindset. There’s nothing fancy happening here other than some flourish of semi-psych guitar, but the self-produced four-piece from Bandung kill it with a reverence of course indebted to but not beholden to Sabbathian blues licks, and their swing on “Deceptive Events” alone is enough proof-of-concept for me. I’m on board. It’s not about progressive this or that. It’s not about trying to find a genre niche no one’s thought of yet. This is players in a room rocking the fuck out. And they might have a bleak point of view in cuts like “War is Come,” and one does not have to look too far to get the reference in “The Throne of Tramp,” but that sense of judgment is part and parcel to originalist doom. At 50 minutes, it’s long for an LP, but as “Restrained” pays off the earlier psychedelic hints, “Metaphorical Speech” boogie-jams and “G.O.D.” rears back with each measure to spit its next line, I wouldn’t lose any of it.

Jawless on Facebook

Jawless on Bandcamp


The Heavy Co., Shelter

The Heavy Co Shelter

Adding a guest guitar solo from EarthlessIsaiah Mitchell wasn’t going to hurt the cause of Indianapolis duo The Heavy Co., and sure enough it doesn’t. Issued digitally in 2020 and premiered here, “Shelter” runs a quick three minutes of psych-blues rock perfectly suited to the 7″ treatment Rock Freaks Records gives it and the earlier digi-single “Phoenix” (posted here), which had been the group’s first offering after a six-year break. “Phoenix,” which is mellower and more molten in its tempo throughout its six minutes, might be the better song of the two, but the twang in “Shelter” pairs well with that bluesy riff from guitarist/vocalist Ian Daniel, and Jeff Kaleth holds it down on drums. More to come? Maybe. There’s interesting ground here to explore in this next phase of The Heavy Co.‘s tenure.

The Heavy Co. on Facebook

Rock Freaks Records store


Sound of Smoke, Tales

Sound of Smoke Tales

All that “Witch Boogie” is missing is John Lee Hooker going “boom boom boom” over that riff, and even when opener “Strange Fruit” or “Dreamin'” is indebted to the Rolling Stones, it’s the bluesier side of their sound. No problem there, but Freiburg, Germany, four-piece Sound of Smoke bring a swagger and atmosphere to “Soft Soaper” that almost ’70s-style Scorpions in its beginning before the shuffling verse starts, tambourine and all, and there’s plenty of pastoral psych in “Indian Summer” and 10-minute “Human Salvation,” the more weighted surges of which feel almost metallic in their root — like someone between vocalist/keyboardist Isabelle Bapté, guitarist Jens Stöver, bassist Florian Kiefer and drummer Johannes Braunstein once played in a harder-focused project. Still, as their debut LP after just a 2017 EP, the seven-song/43-minute Tales shows a looser rumble in “Devil’s Voice” behind Bapté, and there’s a persona and perspective taking shape in the songs. It’ll be hard work for them to stand out, but given what I hear in these tracks, both their psych edge and that sharper underpinning will be assets in their favor along with the sense of performance they bring.

Sound of Smoke on Facebook

Tonzonen Records website


Red Mesa, Forest Cathedral

red mesa forest cathedral

Coming off their 2020 full-length, The Path to the Deathless (review here), Albuquerque-based trio Red Mesa — guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye, bassist/vocalist Alex Cantwell, who alternates here with Frye, and drummer/backing vocalist Roman Barham, who may or may not also join in on the song’s willfully lumbering midsection — take a stated turn toward doom with the 5:50 Forest Cathedral single. The grittier groove suits them, and the increasing sharing of vocals (which includes backing), makes them a more complex act overall, but there’s not necessarily anything in “Forest Cathedral” to make one think it’s some radical shift in another direction, which there was enough of on The Path to the Deathless to warrant a guest appearance from Dave Sherman of Earthride. Still, they continue to do it well, and honing in on this particular sound, whether something they do periodically to change it up, never touch again after this, or see as a new way to go all-in, I’m content to follow along and see where it goes.

Red Mesa on Facebook

Desert Records BigCartel store


Margarita Witch Cult, Witchfinder

Margarita Witch Cult Witchfinder

In keeping with the tradition of over-the-top weed-doom band names, Margarita Witch Cult crawl forth from the birthplace of sonic weight, Birmingham, UK, with their debut two-songer cassingle-looking CD/DL Witchfinder. That’s not the only tradition they’re keeping. See also the classic riffer doom they capture in their practice space on the not-tape and the resulting rawness of “The Witchfinder Comes” and “Aradia,” bot nodders preaching Iommic truths. There’s a bit more scorch in the solo on “Aradia,” but that could honestly mean the microphone moved, and either way, they also keep the tradition of many such UK acts with goofball monikers in actually being pretty right on. Of course, they’re in one of the most crowded heavy undergrounds anywhere in the world, but there’s a lot to be said for taking doom rock and stripping it bare as they do on these tracks, the very least of which is that it would probably work really well on tape. If I was at the gig and I saw it on the merch table, I’d snag and look forward to more. I’ll do the same with the Bandcamp.

Margarita Witch Cult on Facebook

Margarita Witch Cult on Bandcamp


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One Response to “Quarterly Review: Arð, Seremonia, The Quill, Dark Worship, More Experience, Jawless, The Heavy Co., Sound of Smoke, Red Mesa, Margarita Witch Cult”

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